We like to share ideas here at CFB Nation, even if the benefactor does it unknowingly. Colleague David Ching counted down the 10 greatest wins of the Les Miles era to celebrate the coach's 10th season leading LSU.
Five is also a nice, round number, and Jimbo Fisher is entering his fifth season at Florida State. After a little consultation with ESPN Stats & Information and fellow colleague David Hale, here are the five biggest wins of the Fisher era in Tallahassee.
5. 2010: No. 22 Florida State 31, Florida 7
The Gators were not very good in 2010, and, frankly, neither was Florida State. However, Jimbo Fisher emphatically put an end to Florida’s reign as the unquestioned No. 1 in the Sunshine State. The Seminoles had lost six in a row to Florida and were hardly competitive in many of those games. The Big Three in Florida can only go as far as their in-state recruiting takes them, and this result helped turn the tide toward Florida State’s favor. The Seminoles ended up signing the No. 1 class in the country in 2011, and 11 of their 29 signees committed between the Florida game and signing day. Five of those players to commit to FSU during that period: Tre Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, Josue Matias, Nick O’Leary and Kelvin Benjamin. Of those five, all but Jackson had a Florida offer, too.
It wouldn't seem that a Champs Sports Bowl victory would provide the kind of momentum to carry a team through the offseason and set up a 12-2 season the following year, but that is exactly what that Dec. 29 win did for Florida State. Fisher tinkered with his offensive line that game, inserting Austin Barron, Bobby Hart, Jackson and Matias into the lineup. Those four would become cornerstones on the offensive line, helping to develop them early, which paid dividends during the championship run in 2013. Florida State’s offensive line early during Fisher’s tenure routinely underwhelmed. That clearly was not the case in 2013. The Notre Dame game was the first career start for Jackson and Matias.
Rarely has Florida State been an underdog under Fisher. In his first four seasons, Las Vegas oddsmakers dubbed the Seminoles the underdog only six times. When Florida State traveled to Miami to play the ranked Hurricanes, FSU was a 5 1/2-point underdog. Like the Florida victory in 2010, this game set the tone for Fisher’s dominance over the Canes; he’s never lost to Miami. But this victory was significant in the fact that it was the first big road win of Fisher’s career, and ESPN Stats & Information consider it one of the most impressive wins of Fisher’s tenure. ESPN Stats & Info computes a “game score,” which is a score from 0-100 based on the outcome and how well a team controlled a game, adjusted for the location of the game and strength of the opponent. That Florida State win earned a game score of 92.5, the third-highest score of Fisher’s career.
This was Fisher’s most impressive win according to game score, which gave Florida State a near-perfect grade of 98.9. This victory set the tone for Florida State’s march to the national championship. Clemson was undefeated, beat Georgia in the opener and was ranked No. 3 in the country. Previews of the game questioned how the Seminoles’ defense would match up with the Tigers’ offense. Well, the defense gave Clemson little room to operate, and, offensively, Jameis Winston answered any remaining questions as to whether he was the real deal and a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. If Florida State had lost this game, not only would the Seminoles have missed out on the national championship -- the Seminoles wouldn't even get back to the ACC championship. With the game in Clemson, most circled this game as the biggest obstacle between Florida State and an undefeated regular season. By the second quarter, people watching the game knew there was not a team on the Seminoles’ schedule that could beat them.
While this was Fisher's fifth-most impressive win by game score (91.0), there is no debate that this game deserves the No. 1 distinction. Few coaches want to follow a legendary coach like Bobby Bowden, but Fisher embraced the challenge. Not only was he going to replace Bowden, but he was going to rebuild the Florida State culture in his own image. Fisher’s plan was obviously validated in Pasadena, California. The Seminoles trailed 21-3 in the first half, reloading the arsenal of critics who question Fisher’s coaching ability. (A faction still isn’t willing to put Fisher among the current coaching elite yet.) But a fake punt call extended a Florida State drive that ended in a touchdown. That score late in the first half helped spark the Seminoles’ second-half comeback, which culminated with the go-ahead touchdown pass with 13 seconds left.